England is the largest of four countries that form United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The other three countries are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
England has a protestant Established or State Religion in the form of The Church of England, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
While there is a state religion, it has very limited impact on every day life. In 2007 a report was published by The Church of England which indicated that church attendance was falling between 1 and 3 percent a year between 2004 and 2005. The number of people attending traditional Sunday services was only 881,000 (which is approximately 1.8% of the population of England.) There are a great many other religions represented in the population and some have suggested that the decline in Church of England attendances is matched by a rise in popularity of other religions.
Church and State
There is no separation of Church and State in England. Church of England bishops each have a seat in the House of Lords (the upper chamber of parliament) by right. The nominal head of the Church of England is Queen Elizabeth II. The everyday leader of the church is the current Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishops are formally appointed by the current Prime Minister who is given a short-list of two names selected by a special church commission.
Despite the closeness of church and state, it is very rare for a English politician to parade his or her faith (if any.) Tony Blair's press secretary, Alastair Campbell, famously said “We don’t do God.” yet immediately after Blair's resignation Blair converted to Catholicism an act that surprised many. In an earlier interview with the BBC, Tony Blair said that he had avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labeled "a nutter".
Church and Education
Until recently all state funded schools were required to hold a short religious assembly for the entire school each morning. There was no set format for such assemblies, but for most schools it would consist of a short sermon presented by the head or deputy-head master, a hymn, the Lord's Prayer and completed by general announcements about school matters. The entire assembly could take less than 15 minutes.
For the first two years in secondary school (for 12-year-olds and up) there would be a compulsory weekly lesson called, in more traditional schools, Scripture, and in more modern schools, Religious Education (or Instruction.) These lessons tended to be more about the history of Christianity or Comparative Religion than any kind of propaganda for the Church of England.
The Church of England runs a significant number of schools (with the help of state funding) and as expected there is a much higher emphasis on religion within the curriculum.
There are a growing number of "faith" schools attached to various Christian, Jewish and Islamic sects. These receive no state funding but must provide the state mandated curriculum in addition to any religious teaching.
Church and the Media
For many years the BBC would put on special religious programming during Sunday early evenings. However, more recently this has reduced to the point of invisibly apart from "Songs of Praise", a program consisting mostly of nice traditional hymns. None of the other major UK broadcasters feature any kind of regular overt religious programming, but do present a number of "life Style" programs with a thin layer of religion. There are cable channels dedicated to religious programming, much of it sourced from the USA.
There is almost no religious advertising on British TV. Religious advertising is permitted, but the rules strictly limit what may be said.
Bishops and other clergy are frequently invited to comment on TV and radio about local and world affairs.
While England has an established religion, the country is effectively a secular state. While clergy are respected they have little influence, even the Bishops in the House of Lords have little more than a chance to comment on legislation. The major churches are popular tourist attractions but more for their architecture and history than for their religious importance.